The battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party has begun. On one side is the Tea Party. On the other side stand Karl Rove and his establishment team, posing as tacticians while quietly undermining conservatism.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the “biggest donors in the Republican Party” have joined forces with Karl Rove and Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, to create the Conservative Victory Project. The Times reports that this new group will dedicate itself to “recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s effort to win control of the Senate.” The group points to candidates like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Richard Mourdock in Indiana as examples of Tea Party primary picks going sideways in major Senatorial battles.
But it is American Crossroads and its ilk that have run the GOP into the ground. Spending millions of dollars on useless 30,000-ft. advertising campaigns during the last election cycle, training candidates to soften conservatism in order to appeal to “moderates,” blowing up the federal budget under George W. Bush as a bipartisan tactic – all of those strategies led the party to a disastrous defeat in 2012. The Tea Party, which may nominate losers from time to time, also brought the Republicans their historic 2010 Congressional victory. If Tea Party candidates lose, it’s because they weren’t good candidates; if GOP establishment candidates lose, it’s because they weren’t good conservatives. The choice for actual conservatives should be easy.
But it isn’t. The Bush insider team that helped lead to the rise of Barack Obama insists that they, and only they, know the path to victory. As the Times reports, Conservative Victory Project won’t merely protect incumbents – it will challenge sitting Congresspeople of the Tea Party variety, including six-term Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who may run for Senate. “We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Law told the Times – with whom he seems far too friendly. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”
Law claims he’s acting under the rubric of William F. Buckley, supporting the most conservative candidate who can win. But Law is no judge of that. Neither is Rove. Their advice led to the epic Romney defeat, in which conservatives were told to vote for Romney in the primary since he was the only candidate who could win.
Grover Norquist correctly points out that the Rove mission is nonsense. “People are imagining a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Norquist. “We’ve had people challenge the establishment guy and do swimmingly.” In truth, conservatism wins elections so long as the messenger doesn’t implode. Rove’s view, however, is that conservatism takes a back seat to the best quasi-conservative messenger.
But victory for conservatives isn’t Rove’s goal. He’s a political insider par excellence, and he’s playing for his political life in the aftermath of 2012. If that means declaring war on the Tea Party, so be it.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).